The issue of Project Labor Agreements has received some attention the last few months, but not nearly enough. Citizens in states such as Illinois face double trouble from the big government/big union love affair as we have an anti-market (and anti-liberty) state government to augment the anti-market (and anti-liberty) majority in the Senate and White House.
Perhaps double trouble isn't an accurate description of the plight of the Illinois job creator. Triple threat might better describe the situation given the actions of some prominent Illinois Republicans in opposing the free market (see "Illinois 6" Vote "no" on Guinta Amendment by Randy Truckenbrodt).
For The Good of Illinois' Adam Andzrejewski has written a piece which provides a synopsis of the situation in Illinois and the ultimate goal of the PLA:
By Adam Andrzejewski
CEO| For The Good of Illinois
April 13, 2011
The Illinois union left is attempting a “forced acquisition” of the private sector.
Trade unions want to control the decisions of private business: who to hire, how much to pay, and the benefits paid. The foundation of entrepreneurial freedom is being shredded in Illinois.
Recently the Director of the Illinois Department of Labor, Catherine Shannon’s candid testimony to a state committee contained a stunning admission. Illinois unions are using labor law, department bureaucracy, and regulatory standing to harass private companies.
Second generation, family owned Durbin Enterprises in central Illinois was the low bidder by $125,000 on a geothermal well drilling project at Springfield School District 186. The Springfield school board kicked out Durbin’s low bid and the contract went to the next highest bidder- a union shop. Durbin wasn’t a “responsible” bidder because two years ago they received a “first notice” violation from the Illinois Department of Labor- due to a small accounting error on the calculation of pay and benefits while on government work. Durbin couldn’t appeal, because in Illinois due process doesn’t exist for first violations.
The President of the Springfield school board is the current political director of the AFL-CIO.
After years of winning elections and staffing government bureaucracies, the union left is using the structure, apparatus, and myriad of rules and regulations to harass, intimidate and wear down private sector contractors. Burying private companies in government audits, paperwork, and lawyer fees, the agenda is being enforced through the bureaucracy of state inspectors. In Illinois, unions are attempting nothing short of a “forced acquisition” and unionization of the entire construction industry through the mechanism of regulatory harassment.
“Unions would say that the private contractor couldn’t be paying prevailing wage if they under-bid the project by $125,000– so the union naturally files a ‘complaint’,” said Illinois Department of Labor Director, Catherine Shannon in testimony before a state senate committee. “Regularly, I get requests from the building trades unions- they are filing FOIA’s (Freedom of Information Act) requests- for a copy of all first notice violations,” Shannon continued.
On the same day Catherine Shannon’s testimony became public, she was fired. The new director is Joe Costigan – Chicago secretary-treasurer of Workers United, a labor group that is associated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Here’s the union strategy. If you are the low bidder on a government project, your company will be threatened with a project labor agreement (PLA)- the forced unionization of your workforce. If you sign the PLA, the union controls. All monies for pay and benefits then flow through the union hall. Furthermore, the union then has complete jurisdiction over which employees are assigned to your own project.
If you do not sign the PLA, while doing government work, the private company is still required to pay union scale and benefits (prevailing wage). But, here’s the difference- the monies flow directly to the employees paychecks and retirement accounts- not the union hall.
In order to intimidate and harass private contractors into PLA agreements, “false” complaints are being filed with the Illinois Department of Labor. Under Illinois law, the Department of Labor (IDOL) is required to investigate every complaint. Imagine if you could call the IRS and have anyone you want audited!
The complaint will allege non-compliance with labor law regarding proper paperwork, deadlines, filings and payments. The private business is required to “open their books” and submit to an intense government audit.
As with all government rules and regulations, the labor laws and regulations are complex and open to interpretation. Therefore, defending your business requires a specialty labor lawyer. A business owner’s time, energy and money dissipates into his defense. The temptation is to “admit” a small offense, pay a small fine and move on. Every entrepreneur just wants to get government off his back. But, that is just the black mark the unions want. With the black mark comes a label, your business is not a “responsible” contractor.
Government bid contracts are now containing the definitions of “responsible bidder”. You guessed it- “responsible” bidders have no IDOL violations. Therefore, with a notice of first violation, your company is effectively barred from bidding government work.
Here’s the end goal: the only “responsible” contractors will be the union shops.
While the state government in Illinois might be a hard nut to crack, there is something that can be done on the federal level. Concerned citizens can call their Represntatives and ask them to support H.R. 735: The Government Neutrality in Contracting Act. Let's see if the "Illinois 6" will redeem themselves or at least confirm a certain level of catering to big labor.